The Systematic Dismantling of Higher Education: Long Island University Locks out Faculty

This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.

If you needed more proof of a concentrated effort to corporatize higher education, look no further than Long Island University (L.I.U.).

Administration at the L.I.U. Brooklyn campus in New York headed by president, Kimberly Cline, locked out all 400 members of the Faculty Federation (LIUFF) on September 5th amid stalled contract negotiations.

After failing to reach an agreement on a new faculty union contract, which expired on Aug. 31, the university’s administration then locked faculty members out of their offices and their email accounts and canceled their health insurance over the Labor Day weekend. – New York Times

Consider this – a lockout is unprecedented in the history of Higher Education. This is a blatant and abhorrent use of corporate power to break unions and force educators to accept diminished wages and degraded standards. Students have already walked out on classes led by inferior faculty who were called in at the last minute. A letter was forwarded to 14 Accreditation bodies from the American Federation of Teachers warning that the lockout will imperil “The University’s compliance with both regional and programmatic accreditation standards.” Long Island University’s decision to use unqualified substitutes is antithetical to student’s expectations that their course load will be taught by faculty who have the credentials and experience students are paying for.

It remains to be seen whether an oversight committee will step in. The ideal scenario would be to remove Kimberly Cline and other administrators who orchestrated the lockout but that won’t happen. The corporatization of college education is now an institutional malaise. Colleges and universities have the money to spend but they don’t spend it on faculty salaries.

Benjamin Ginsberg argues in his book, The Fall of the Faculty that “Universities have degenerated into poorly managed pseudo-corporations controlled by bureaucrats so far removed from research and teaching that they have barely any idea what these activities involve.” Branding missions and media relations’ administrators have become the new strong arm of university campuses and their skills come with hefty price tags. Schools have chosen to spend more on administrative superstructure than on actual education. The whole point of education now is to get the money – get students into the store and leverage their student loans. Ginsberg further points out that since 1976, “The number of full-time professors increased slightly more than 50 percent, while the number of administrators and administrative staffers increased 85 percent and 240 percent, respectively.”

In all instances, college cost-cutting translates into cutting faculty, freezing salaries, and employing contingent adjuncts while admin costs soar. More administrators with big salaries guarantee education is no longer enriching or rigorous but restricted by bureaucratic inertia. The lockout is a vicious and unheard of action that bodes poorly for not only Higher Ed but for all unions.

Once corporatization steps in it will erase analytical and creative thought. The mindset that is fostered in this atmosphere isn’t one of exploration or learning – it’s one of conformity. The corporate mentality is a well-oiled gear that positions its rhetoric as having the best interests of “everyone else“ in mind. It’s a smokescreen. The L.I U. college’s administrative “update” expounds on their spurious concern for student education and opines that their “contract offer is generous and highly competitive.”

Facts point to the opposite. In a letter to the L.I.U. Board of Trustees, Dr. Hildi Hendrickson, who heads the University Faculty Senate, states: “LIU Brooklyn students pay the same tuition as students at LIU’s Post campus. But LIU Brooklyn faculty are paid less for the same work and LIU’s President wants to break their union. The administration wanted to drag it out for longer, and add other onerous work rules and cuts to adjunct faculty members’ already low pay.”

The reality is, full-time faculty salaries are barely higher than in 1970. Not only that, 45 years ago “78 percent of college and university professors were full time.” Now, over 50 percent of faculty is adjuncts. Paul Campos, in a New York Times article makes the critical observation that this translates into more teachers working for much less income – and no benefits if they’re adjuncts – while doing the same work.

Many cite L.I.U. president Kimberly Cline’s administration as the tipping point for fractured negotiations and stagnant salaries. Deborah Mutnick, a professor of English says Cline believes, “The primary goal of the university is to improve its credit rating… The basic thrust of her administration has been to accrue a surplus budget, and she has done that only by firing people.”

Corporatization and the Trend of Predatory Practices

The lockout portends a troubling trend – not only in terms of union busting but also in the way educational services are ultimately delivered. Profit motives are driving Higher Education and in many cases, it’s failing. Corinthian College in California and most recently ITT Technical Institute nationwide, shuttered all their campuses. Both were cited for misleading advertising and predatory lending practices. The closures have left tens of thousands of students in limbo – unable to complete their degrees or transfer credits. Predatory lending lawsuits are being levied against ITT along with investigations by 17 state attorneys generals. All 28 campuses of for profit Corinthian Colleges were closed last year in an unprecedented move by California Attorney General Kamala Harris.

Corporatization has provoked a complete lack of ethical behavior as these colleges prey on the most vulnerable. Their mandate is “get the money anyway possible” and keep in mind these are only the colleges we know about. According to Attorney General Kamala Harris, “The predatory scheme devised by executives at Corinthian Colleges, Inc. is unconscionable. Designed to rake in profits and mislead investors, they targeted some of our state’s most particularly vulnerable people — including low-income, single mothers and veterans returning from combat.” Colleges are leading the way in defining abusive practices that take advantage of those who are struggling to improve their lives.

This hardly sounds like an institution of Higher Learning that has any investment in quality education or any concern about student welfare. L.I.U. joins the canon of unethical and profit raking motivated colleges by locking out faculty and denying students quality instruction.

Popular in the Community